Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is French Toast Bad For You?

Also Known As: Eggy bread



Short answer

French toast can fit into a balanced diet with mindful preparation and topping choices. Using whole grain bread, minimizing added sugars, and opting for healthier cooking methods and nutritious toppings like fresh fruit can make it a nourishing meal. However, traditional versions cooked with butter and topped with sugary syrups can be high in calories, sugars, and fats.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Classic French Toast

French toast, a beloved breakfast dish, involves dipping bread in a mixture of eggs, milk, and typically a sweetener or spices, before frying it to a golden brown. It's enjoyed worldwide, often accompanied by syrup, fruits, or powdered sugar. While it's undeniably delicious, one might question its nutritional value and place in a balanced diet. Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes a classic slice of French toast.

Key Macronutrients: At its core, French toast provides carbohydrates, protein, and fats. A typical slice made with white bread contains approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of protein, and 12 grams of fat, assuming it’s cooked with butter. Whole grain bread can alter these amounts slightly, offering more fiber and potentially lowering the glycemic index of the meal.

The presence of eggs in the mix contributes not only to the protein content but also infuses the dish with essential amino acids and additional fats, which are primarily unsaturated and beneficial for heart health. Milk further adds calcium and vitamin D, crucial for bone health, although the exact amounts can vary depending on whether whole milk, low-fat, or a plant-based alternative is used.

Micro-nutritional Factors: Beyond these basics, French toast incorporates varying levels of vitamins and minerals. B-vitamins coming from both the eggs and bread are instrumental in energy metabolism, while the iron content is essential for red blood cell function. If enriched bread is used, additional folic acid can play a role in DNA synthesis and repair.

However, where French toast often becomes a point of nutrition contention is in its accompaniments. Syrups, especially those high in fructose corn syrup, add a significant amount of simple sugars without any nutritional benefits. Using whole fruits or natural honey as toppings can mitigate this, offering antioxidants and less refined sugars.

Caloric Consideration: Calories in French toast can add up quickly, primarily due to the method of preparation. Frying in butter or oils increases calorie density, with an average slice reaching up to 200 to 300 calories before any toppings are added. Opting for cooking sprays or a non-stick pan could reduce this number.

Notwithstanding these variables, the method of preparation and choice of ingredients greatly influence the nutritional outcome. For a healthier version, opt for whole grain bread, minimize added sugars, and consider light cooking sprays. Adding a side of fresh fruit or a protein can balance the meal.

  • Carbohydrates: ~30g (white bread basis)
  • Protein: ~10g
  • Fats: ~12g (when cooked with butter)
  • Fiber: varies with bread choice
  • Vitamins and Minerals: B-vitamins, iron, calcium, vitamin D
  • Calories: 200-300 per slice (untopped)

The nutritional content of classic French toast, therefore, holds the capacity to be both a nourishing start to the day or a calorie-laden meal depending on one's ingredient choices and preparation techniques. It’s essential to consider these factors to ensure that your French toast fits into your dietary goals.

Impact of Syrup and Toppings on Health

When assessing the health impact of French toast, it's crucial not to overlook the influence of syrup and toppings, a common accompaniment that can transform this breakfast staple from a moderate indulgence into a sugar-laden trap. Let's dive into the nutritional implications of these additions.

Syrup Varieties: The most traditional syrup choice is maple syrup, which, despite its natural origins, is high in sucrose. A single tablespoon contains about 13 grams of sugar, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. While it provides some minerals, such as manganese and zinc, the sugar content can lead to rapid spikes in blood glucose levels, which over time, may contribute to insulin resistance if consumed in excess.

Artificial syrups, often labeled as "pancake syrup," typically consist of high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and colors. These syrups not only lack nutrient value but may also pose additional health risks. For instance, high fructose corn syrup has been associated with obesity, fatty liver disease, and diabetes, as outlined in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Healthier Alternatives: If you're aiming for a healthier French toast experience, consider drizzling raw honey, which contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, or using pureed fruit as a topping — both deliver sweetness with a more modest spike in blood sugar levels.

Creamy Toppings: Whipped cream and dollops of mascarpone or cream cheese are popular French toast toppings; however, they significantly increase the calorie and saturated fat content of the dish. The American Heart Association advises limiting saturated fat to reduce the risk of heart disease. Moderation is key when it comes to these creamy additions.

Nut Butters and Spreads: Spreading almond, peanut, or cashew butter can offer a protein boost and healthy fats that contribute to satiety, although calorie content can still be high. Choosing unsweetened versions can help lower the sugar content. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that substituting plant protein for animal protein is associated with lower risks of coronary heart disease, making nut butters a potentially heart-healthier option.

Fruits and Nuts: Fresh fruits like berries, sliced bananas, or apple compote can add vitamins, minerals, fiber, and natural sweetness. Nuts provide healthy fats, protein, and a satisfying crunch. Combining fruit and nuts not only enhances flavor and texture but also offers a diverse nutrient profile, making it an advisable topping choice.

Savory Toppings: For those who prefer a less sweet French toast, savory options such as a light sprinkle of cheese or a side of grilled tomatoes can impart flavor without the high sugar content. This approach often results in a lower glycemic load, better for maintaining steady blood sugar levels.

Ultimately, the toppings chosen for French toast play a decisive role in its overall nutritional impact. Opting for whole, nutrient-dense toppings while using high-sugar or high-fat items sparingly can make it a more health-conscious choice, aligning better with a balanced diet approach.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: The Bread and Batter Factor

When evaluating the nutritional profile of French toast, the bread and batter play pivotal roles in determining the dish's saturated fat and cholesterol content. Traditional French toast recipes often call for dipping bread in a mix of eggs and milk before frying in butter or oil, which are key factors to consider when assessing health impacts.

Bread Selection: The type of bread used can significantly affect the meal's saturated fat content. For instance, using white or brioche bread offers minimal saturated fats, as these are typically low-fat bread options. However, if your choice of bread includes ingredients like butter or coconut oil, the saturated fat content can be considerably higher. Whole grain breads are often recommended for a healthier option due to their lower saturated fat content and additional nutrients and fiber.

Egg and Milk Mixture: Eggs and whole milk are integral to the batter, both containing saturated fats and cholesterol. One large egg has roughly 1.6 grams of saturated fat and 186 milligrams of cholesterol, while a cup of whole milk has about 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 24 milligrams of cholesterol. Some individuals may choose to use alternative milks, such as almond or soy, which can reduce the saturated fat content but may also alter the taste and texture of the end product.

Cooking Fats: The type of fat used for frying can add significant amounts of saturated fat. Butter, for instance, has about 7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Healthier alternatives such as olive oil or canola oil contain less saturated fat and may be considered a better option for those conscious of their saturated fat intake.

Serving Size Matters: Portion control is crucial when enjoying French toast. A standard serving may include one to two slices, but it's not uncommon for servings to exceed this, leading to greater saturated fat and cholesterol consumption.

Healthier Preparations: Preparing French toast with cholesterol-free egg substitutes or using only egg whites can significantly reduce cholesterol and saturated fat content. Additionally, opting for low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk will also contribute to a healthier dish.

Additional Considerations: Toppings like syrup, whipped cream, or powdered sugar add more than just flavor—they can also sneak in added fats and simple sugars. A mindful selection of toppings, such as fresh fruits or a light drizzle of pure maple syrup, can help keep the saturated fat and cholesterol levels in check.

Analyzing your French toast's bread and batter components is essential for understanding its nutritional implications. For those with heart health concerns or dietary restrictions related to saturated fat and cholesterol, modifications to the standard recipe can make French toast a more suitable choice. However, it's always advisable to enjoy such dishes in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Sugars and Carbohydrates in French Toast

French Toast, a breakfast favorite for many, is enriched with carbohydrates and can contain varying amounts of sugars, depending on its preparation. Let's delve into its nutritional profile with a focus on sugars and carbohydrates.

Basic Carbohydrate Content:

At its core, French Toast consists of bread, typically dipped in a mixture of eggs and milk, then fried. Bread, being the main ingredient, is a significant source of carbohydrates. The type of bread used—white, whole-grain, brioche, or others—will determine the exact carbohydrate content. Whole-grain breads, while slightly more complex in their carbohydrate structure, offer additional fiber and nutrients compared to their refined white counterparts.

Added Sugars:

Sugars in French Toast mainly come into the picture with the addition of toppings and spreads. Popular choices such as maple syrup, powdered sugar, or honey can rapidly increase the sugar content. To illustrate:

  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup contains about 14 grams of sugars
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar provides nearly 8 grams of sugars
  • 1 tablespoon of honey has roughly 17 grams of sugars

These toppings, while enhancing flavor, can convert a modest breakfast into a high-sugar meal, potentially impacting blood sugar levels and contributing to calorie overload.

Glycemic Index Considerations:

The glycemic index (GI) of French Toast is also an important aspect, particularly for those managing blood sugar levels. Traditional French Toast made with white bread has a higher GI, causing a quicker rise in blood glucose. Choosing bread with a higher fiber content can mitigate this effect by providing a more gradual release of sugars into the bloodstream.

Portions and Moderation:

Portion size is paramount. A standard serving of French Toast can range from one to two slices, but restaurant servings can be significantly larger. Being mindful of portion sizes can help manage carbohydrate and sugar intake effectively.

It is important to consider the combination of ingredients and toppings when evaluating the healthiness of French Toast. Opting for whole-grain bread, moderating the use of sweet toppings, and being cognizant of portion sizes, are crucial steps towards enjoying French Toast in a balanced diet.

Expert Opinions:

According to nutrition experts, incorporating protein and healthy fats can also improve the overall nutritional profile of French Toast. For example, pairing it with a source of protein, such as Greek yogurt, or adding a small serving of nuts, can help balance the meal.

Finally, let's not forget that while French Toast can fit into a balanced diet, it should be considered part of an overall varied and nutritious eating plan, rather than a daily indulgence. The consensus in the nutrition community is to enjoy French Toast as an occasional treat, rather than a staple breakfast item, due to its potential high carbohydrate and sugar content.

Healthier Variations of French Toast Recipes

French toast, a beloved breakfast classic, often comes under scrutiny for its typical preparation that includes white bread, whole milk, sugar, and syrup. However, this does not mean that French toast cannot be enjoyed in a healthier way. By making a few ingredient swaps and preparation adjustments, you can transform French toast into a nutritious dish that fits into a health-conscious diet. Let's explore some variations that not only maintain the deliciousness of this beloved dish but also add nutritional value.

Whole Grain Bread:
Substitute white bread with whole grain bread for a fiber-rich option. Whole grains have been associated with a variety of health benefits, including improved digestion and a reduced risk of heart disease, as indicated by research, like the study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2016).

Dairy-Free Milks:
Almond, soy, or oat milk can replace whole milk to lower the dish's saturated fat content and add unique flavors. Additionally, these milk alternatives are suitable for those with lactose intolerance, as reported by the National Institutes of Health.

Use Egg Whites:
Reducing the egg yolk quantity and using more egg whites can cut down on cholesterol and saturated fat, as recommended by the American Heart Association. This small change maintains the protein content which is essential for muscle repair and overall health.

Sweeten Naturally:
Instead of topping your French toast with syrup, try natural sweeteners like mashed bananas or a light drizzle of honey. These alternatives provide sweetness along with additional nutrients, such as potassium in bananas and antioxidants in honey.

Add Nuts and Seeds:
Incorporate nuts like almonds, walnuts, or seeds such as chia or flaxseed into your French toast coating for an extra dose of healthy fats, fiber, and texture.

Go for Low-Calorie Toppings:
Fresh fruits, yogurt, or nut butter can offer flavor complexity and nutritional benefits without the excessive calories found in traditional syrup or whipped cream. A study in the International Journal of Obesity (2014) suggests the positive role of fruit consumption in weight management and overall health.

Use Spices for Flavor:
Cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract can add rich, aromatic flavors without additional sugar or calories, and these spices have been noted for their potential health benefits, such as antioxidant properties, outlined in research published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods (2015).

By embracing these healthier variations, you can indulge in French toast that supports your nutritional goals while still savoring every bite. Remember that the key is moderation and balance; even the most nutritious foods can contribute to an unhealthy diet if consumed in excessive amounts.

The Role of French Toast in a Balanced Diet

When considering the place of French toast within a balanced diet, it's essential to examine its nutritional components and how they fit into the daily needs of an individual. French toast, a popular breakfast dish made by soaking bread in a mixture of beaten eggs, milk, and often sugar and cinnamon, then frying it until golden brown, can be both a source of nourishment and indulgence.

First, let's break down the typical ingredients found in French toast and their nutritional implications:

  • Eggs: Eggs provide a good source of high-quality protein and nutrients such as vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium, and choline.
  • Milk: Milk adds calcium and vitamin D to the dish, which are essential for bone health. It also provides additional protein.
  • Bread: The type of bread chosen can significantly affect the nutritional content. Whole-grain bread is a healthier choice offering fiber, vitamins, and minerals, whereas white bread is less nutritious due to the refining process it undergoes.
  • Sugar and Cinnamon: While cinnamon can have health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties and blood sugar control, sugar is a source of empty calories and should be used in moderation.

French toast can indeed fit into a balanced diet if prepared thoughtfully. A balanced diet is one that provides a variety of nutrients in the right proportions to maintain health, and here's how French toast might align with this goal:

  • Protein is vital for repairing tissues and maintaining muscle mass. The eggs and milk in French toast contribute to the daily protein intake.
  • Carbohydrates are the body's primary energy source, and the bread provides this macronutrient. Opting for whole-grain bread can offer sustained energy due to its higher fiber content.
  • Fats are necessary for nutrient absorption and brain health. While French toast can be high in fat if cooked in butter or oil, selecting healthier cooking sprays or a non-stick pan can help control fat intake.

However, the caloric and sugar content of French toast can be of concern, particularly when topped with syrup, whipped cream, or extra butter. These additions can transform an otherwise nutritious dish into a high-calorie, sugar-laden treat. Moderation is key, and it's important to consider the following recommendations:

  • Balance the meal with a side of fresh fruit or a vegetable omelet to increase fiber and nutrient intake.
  • Limits sugars and saturated fats by choosing healthier toppings like fresh berries, Greek yogurt, or a small amount of natural nut butter.
  • Consider the portion size and be aware of the potential for overconsumption given the dish's appealing taste.

In conclusion, while French toast can be part of a balanced diet, its role is dependent on the choice of ingredients, preparation methods, and accompaniments. By making informed decisions on these aspects, it's possible to enjoy this beloved breakfast option without compromising nutritional goals. The key is to integrate it conscientiously into a diet that emphasizes variety, moderation, and nutrient density.

Frequently asked questions

Using plant-based milks such as almond, soy, or oat milk can alter the nutritional profile of French toast by changing the fat content, particularly saturated fat, and can affect calcium and protein content compared to cow's milk. Many plant-based milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, but it's important to check the nutritional labels as protein content can vary widely between different types.

To make the carbohydrate content in French toast healthier, use whole-grain bread which has more fiber and nutrients than white bread. The fiber helps slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, leading to a steadier rise in blood sugar levels. Additionally, being mindful of added sugars from toppings is crucial in maintaining a healthier carbohydrate profile.

Yes, it is possible to make French toast without adding sugar to the batter and still have a tasty dish. Natural spices like cinnamon, vanilla extract, and nutmeg can enhance the flavor without the need for added sugars. You can also add sweetness with toppings like fresh fruit, unsweetened applesauce, or a drizzle of honey in moderation.

High-protein toppings for French toast include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nut butters, and sliced almonds or chopped walnuts. These toppings not only increase the protein content, making the meal more filling and satisfying, but also provide essential nutrients like healthy fats, calcium, and antioxidants.

Ask a question about French Toast and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood sugar levels
  • caloric surplus
  • saturated fat intake

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • insulin resistance
  • heart disease risks
  • fatty liver disease
  • increased cholesterol levels

Ingredients to be aware of


  • protein source
  • essential amino acids
  • calcium and vitamin d for bone health
  • b-vitamins for energy metabolism
  • iron for red blood cell function
  • fiber intake (with whole grain bread)

Healthier alternatives

  • whole grain bread
  • plant-based milk
  • egg whites or cholesterol-free substitutes
  • natural sweeteners (honey, pureed fruit)
  • unsweetened nut butters
  • fresh fruits
  • spices (cinnamon, nutmeg)
  • low-fat cooking methods

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Birch Benders Paleo Mix

  • Grain-free mix
  • Easy prep - just add water
  • Contains nut flours
  • No added sugar
  • Dairy-free product
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-12-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-12-2023

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